The Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA) wants a stop on the ‘natural’ migration to Universal Credit(UC) migration until key conditions can be met.
Responding to an inquiry by the UK Parliament’s Work and Pensions Committee, Sarah Boyack, SFHA Head of Public Affairs, acknowledged the DWP as right to adopt a “very cautious approach” to moving over claimants on existing benefit by undertaking a pilot to ensure that safeguards will be in place to minimise adverse effects to claimants before going to scale.
“Yet claimants who have a change of circumstance are ‘naturally’ migrated, many of whom will have similarly complex needs, will not benefit from such safeguards.
“The change of circumstance which will have triggered the natural migration may itself be a cause of stress and anxiety, such as bereavement, the end of a custodial sentence or a relationship breakdown, so there is a real risk of adverse effects and distress,” said Boyack.
“SFHA believes that, with the exception of JSA claimants who have found work but still need social security support, there should be a pause to natural migration to UC, with claimants allowed to continue to be assessed under the legacy benefits system until they can be managed migrated, and all migration should only be implemented once key conditions.
Key conditions SFHA wants to see met are:
• Outcomes of the pilot assessed and an assurance that processes underpinning migration are reliable and safe
• Sufficient numbers of DWP staff en trained and deployed to provide a consistent and accurate level of service
• Support mechanisms, such as the landlord portal and payment system, sufficiently developed and robust
• The Universal Credit service deemed to have reached a steady state – subject to independent verification
“If there is to be no pause, then there must be safeguards in place to prevent natural migration whilst any outstanding mandatory considerations or appeals are being processed,” said Boyack.
“Claimants should also be allowed to retain their existing benefit pending the outcome of the reconsideration or appeal process, rather than be pressured to apply for Universal Credit in order to receive any money,” she said.